“Sometimes loneliness makes the loudest noise.” ― Aaron Ben-Ze’ev
Riley Aylworth needs. That’s all, he just needs: He needs to heal his emotional and psychological wounds so he can see past the physical one he bears that lets the outside world know he’s survived something profoundly life altering. He needs to trust that he is more than the imperfect skin in which he’s wrapped. He needs to understand that true courage, the kind of strength he possesses, comes from facing his fears, not running from them. He needs to have faith that he’s the sort of man Cameron Kirkwood can love. He needs to believe that a man who is starved for touch and for connection to another, is a man who needs only to reach out and take what’s within reach rather than pushing it away because he doesn’t believe his imperfection is worthy of something so perfect.
Riley needs to see with his heart and not with his eyes.
Author Henrietta Clark has written a modern day interpretation of the “Beauty & the Beast” fairy tale, though Riley’s “curse” had nothing to do with him being cruel and narcissistic and had everything to do with a horrible accident that caused him to become blind—not in the literal sense of the word but most certainly in the figurative. The fire that left Riley disfigured did everything but destroy his vision, leaving it so diminished and so narrowed that all he sees when he looks in the mirror is the scars looking back at him rather than the heart of the man that lies beneath.
Random chance and nothing more brings Riley and Cameron together in what amounts to a contemporary epistolary romance, not offered to the reader through letters or diary entries but over the telephone and internet, as their friendship grows from an angry first conversation, to a growing attachment and dependence upon hearing each other’s voices, sharing their days and their lives through the distance of a cell phone connection; Cameron falling more and more in love with the voice—and eventually the man, when he finally discovers that his Riley is also the beautiful blonde, blue eyed, and scarred man his eyes can’t help but seek out in the coffee shop they both frequent; Riley falling more and more in love with the idea of Cameron being able to see past his scars but not trusting it could ever happen, keeping Cameron at arm’s length while at the same time not wanting to let him go.
Ms. Clark has succeeded in telling a love story largely through dialogue that not only takes the reader along on a slow and bumpy road to romance but that also helps us to understand who Riley and Cam are as people, in all their many layers—humorous, compassionate, flawed, sexy, gentle, and troubled. The two men learn through their lengthy conversations about their differences and their similarities, and also learn that it’s possible to fall deeply and irrevocably in love with the sound of someone’s voice and to know that person’s heart so well that it doesn’t matter the outer packaging he comes in. What matters is that connection can’t be broken by time.
To quote one of the most quotable movies ever: “Since the invention of the kiss there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” I have to say this pretty well sums up Riley and Cameron’s first kiss for me. It’s the single defining moment the reader waits for throughout almost the entirety of the book, the moment that the author makes payoff so well, though it’s not at all the magic cure that fixes their relationship. The author has, in fact, written The Truth About Riley as an extended prologue with the promise at the end of more to come, as these two men will go on to prove, hopefully, that they’ve just shared their last first kiss.
I for one am looking forward to seeing where they go from here.